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Which Alabama player in 2018 draft class has potential for best NFL career?

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A-Day and spring practice are behind us, but there are still plenty of questions to answer about Alabama football. The players are away from the team to focus on finishing classes, recovering and personal development before summer workouts begin. Here we’ll take a look at a question each day. Check out our archives here.

Which Alabama player in the 2018 draft class has the potential to have the best NFL career?

No disrespect to any of the other guys, but it’s Minkah Fitzpatrick all the way here.

Fitzpatrick seems to have the lowest bust potential of any player of the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa.

He’s the type of player who’ll change an organization both on and off the field from Day 1. He’s extremely talented and will be a great ambassador for any NFL franchise.

And there’s not really anything he can’t do on a football field.

Fitzpatrick won the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards in 2017. The Old Bridge, N.J., native ends his career as the Alabama career leader in interception returns for touchdowns with 4, including a school-record 2 in one game against Texas A&M in 2015. He finished last season as the Tide’s fourth-leading tackler with 60 stops and added 8 tackles for loss (-31 yards), 1.5 sacks (-15 yards), 8 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

He’s going to make an NFL team very proud each and every Sunday for the duration of his career.

For more answers to prior Questions of the Day, we have you covered.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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South Carolina WR tabbed as top 20 player in the country; favorite Gamecocks content from SEC Country

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Top 20

South Carolina Gamecocks redshirt senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel is the No. 18 overall player in Sports Illustrated’s 2018 College Football Top 100.

“If he can recapture the form that made him one of the biggest stories in the SEC last September, Samuel should spend conference play grilling opposing defensive backs and coverage units,” SI’s Chris Johnson and Eric Single wrote. “An uptick in junior quarterback Jake Bentley’s accuracy — among qualifying passers, he finished seventh in the SEC in efficiency and tossed 12 interceptions last season — would further Samuel’s cause.”

Prior to suffering a season-ending injury in Week 3 against Kentucky, Samuel had 15 catches for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns and 1 rushing score. He earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors in Weeks 1 and 2.

Before Columbia

Days before SEC Country shuts its doors, we’re looking back at some of our favorite South Carolina stories from the past two years.

In fall 2016, former SEC Country writer Mike Wilson profiled then-freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, taking a closer look at how Bentley’s adopted hometown of Opelika, Ala., shaped him.

“Opelika is home, the place where he became well-known around the city and earned a sterling reputation for his play on the field and his character away from it,” Wilson wrote. “It’s the place where that reputation should still be mounting and he should be playing.”

Bentley burst onto the scene halfway through South Carolina’s 2016 campaign, becoming the team’s starting quarterback and never looking back. His freshman year, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback went 4-3 as a starter, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

On the up and up

The Gamecocks haven’t had a defensive back picked in the NFL draft since 2013, but that could change soon, according to John Whittle of The Big Spur.

“While the program isn’t nearly the ‘DBU’ it once was, it’s trending in the right direction after going five years without a drafted player,” Whittle wrote. “That streak should come to an end with the 2019 NFL draft with perhaps three players taken. And if three defensive backs are taken this season, that will be the most in the program since 1972.”

The South Carolina secondary is led by seniors Rashad Fenton, Steven Montac and Keisean Nixon in 2018. The trio combined for 75 tackles, 6 interceptions and 10 passes defended last season.

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Coming soon?

Check out 4-star WR and 2019 target Keveon Mullins hanging out with 4-star QB and South Carolina commit Ryan Hilinski at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge on Wednesday.

The Gamecocks are among the finalists for Mullins. The Memphis, Tenn., native is rated as the No. 258 overall prospect for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

Making the cut

Three-star linebacker and 2019 prospect Jamie Pettway announced South Carolina as one of his  top 6 schools on Tuesday.

The 247Sports composite tabs Pettway as the No. 51 outside linebacker for 2019.

Dear Chris

South Carolina forward Chris Silva penned a letter to his 15-year-old self on Wednesday.

“Leaving Gabon was crazy hard, wasn’t it?” Silva wrote. “Especially when you glanced back over your shoulder one more time and saw everyone at the airport there to support you and give you one more look of encouragement and yell of good luck. Mom, Dad, your uncles, friends, everyone. But it’s happening man. You’re going to the United States to chase your dream.”

The All-SEC forward averaged 14.3 points, 8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last season.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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On the Beat: Assessing which former Alabama player went to best NFL fit

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football saw four players go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday, the first of its SEC-record 12 players overall got who were drafted last weekend.

The four first-round selections for the Crimson Tide are the most for any team in the opening round and equals the most for Alabama in the first round of any draft during Nick Saban’s tenure. Four Tide players were drafted in the first round of the 2011, 2012 and 2017 drafts.

The 12 selections is a record under Nick Saban and the most in school history, surpassing the 10 selected in 2017 and in the 32-round draft in 1945.

Alabama’s 77 draftees over the last 10 years represent the most from any program in college football in that span. LSU is second with 72, followed by USC at 66.

Alabama has had 22 players selected in the last two NFL drafts, including six on offense, 15 on defense and one specialist. The defensive draftee total from the last two drafts includes all 11 of Alabama’s 2016 season-opening defensive starters.

But which player went to the best situation this year?

This one is easy, with Calvin Ridley being selected by the Atlanta Falcons. Ridley finished second in Alabama history for receptions (224) and receiving touchdowns (19) while ranking third in receiving yards with 2,781. He totaled 8 career 100-yard receiving games to tie for third in the Alabama record books and caught at least one pass in all 44 games of his Alabama career to rank third among active receivers in the FBS during 2017. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native was named First Team All-SEC by the coaches. Ridley led the Tide with 63 catches for 967 yards to average 15.3 yards per catch with 5 touchdown receptions. The 967 yards were good for third in the SEC while his 63 receptions ranked sixth in the conference.

Most wide receivers taken in the first round typically don’t go to good situations; either the team that selects them don’t have a reliable quarterback or the young receiver has the pressure of being the only consistent pass-catching threat for the team. Ridley steps into a situation in Atlanta with an elite quarterback (Matt Ryan) and an elite wide receiver (Julio Jones) opposite him. There’s also receiver Mohamed Sanu, who’ll help take attention off of Ridley.

With Jones drawing double teams and being the focus of defensive game plans, Ridley should get mostly 1-on-1 coverage. He can play on the outside and in the slot.

Only three wide receivers have won the offensive rookie of the year award in the last 15 years: Anquan Boldin (2003), Percy Harvin (2009) and Odell Beckham Jr. (2014). Ridley could join that group with a big season.

That likely will come down to whether  Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian figures out how to use all of his weapons and puts Ridley in situations to succeed. Sarkisian has experience with Ridley, having spent the 2016 season at Alabama and serving as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator in the National Championship Game loss to Clemson.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Update: Alabama’s player development remains unparalleled after 2018 NFL Draft

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When the University of Alabama recently set a program record for selections in a single draft with 12, among them were six players rated consensus 5-star talents as prospects.

Four went in the first round.

There were also two former 5-star talents, according to the 247Sports composite, who went undrafted: wide receiver Robert Foster (2013 recruiting class) and defensive back Tony Brown (2014). Both were quickly scooped up as free agents, but it was something that hasn’t happened very often to the Crimson Tide during the Nick Saban era.

It was more in line with the rest of college football, though.

Alabama 2018 NFL draft class by recruiting rating

  • 5 stars: *Calvin Ridley (2015), *Da’Ron Payne (2015), *Minkah Fitzpatrick (2015), Bo Scarbrough (2014), Da’Shawn Hand (2014), *Rashaan Evan (2014)
  • 4 stars: Ronnie Harrison (2015), Shaun Dion Hamilton (2014), Josh Frazier (2014), Anthony Averett (2013)
  • 3 stars: JK Scott (2014), Bradley Bozeman (2013)

If you saw SEC Country’s report on Alabama’s NFL player development from National Signing Day, you already know that the Crimson Tide have remarkable success in that area under Saban.

With the completion of the 2018 NFL Draft, the numbers from the recruiting Class of 2014 can now be factored in.

Class of 2014 5-star prospects in NFL draft

Overall, there were 33 consensus 5-star players in the 2014 recruiting class, including Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Marlon Humphrey, Hand, Brown, Evans and Scarbrough. (The running back enrolled in January of 2015, but for our purposes was in the recruiting Class of 2014).

Here’s how each player fared in the draft, listed by college:

School 5-star players Drafted First round
Alabama 6 5 2
LSU 4 3 2
Georgia 3 3 1
Texas A&M 3 1 1
USC 2 2 1
Auburn 2 0 0
Florida State 2 1 0
Virginia 2 1 0
Michigan 1 1 1
Stanford 1 1 1
Baylor 1 0 0
Florida 1 1 0
Miami 1 1 0
Michigan State 1 1 0
Ohio State 1 1 0
Oklahoma 1 1 0
Totals 32 23 9

The player not listed is Maryland offensive lineman Damian Prince, who is returning for his senior season.

Alabama’s percentages for the 5-star players in that recruiting class were 83.3 drafted overall, and 33.3 for first-round selections. The first is above average for Crimson Tide players in the Saban era, but the latter was low.

So far, 73.1 percent of Saban’s 5-star prospects have been drafted, 42.3 in the first round. Both figures top college football.

Alabama 5-star recruits in the NFL draft, 2008-14

Year 5-star players Drafted First round
2014 5 4 2
2013 6 5 3
2012 3 2 0
2011 3 2 1
2010 2 1 1
2009 4 4 3
2008 3 1 1
Total 26 19 11

Overall, there were 227 players who were considered consensus 5-star talents from 2008-14. Only 130 were drafted at all, or 57.3 percent — although the Class of 2013 total can still be influenced by former USC defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow, who has been granted a sixth year of eligibility and is transferring to West Virginia.

Last year was a good year for the recruiting rankings as nine 5-star talents became first-round selections. But even with the total bumped up to 44 it’s still just 19.4 percent.

Consensus 5-star players in the NFL draft

Year 5-star players Drafted First round
2014 33 23 9
2013 35 21 7
2012 38 24 7
2011 29 17 4
2010 32 16 6
2009 32 15 4
2008 28 13 7

Only two other programs have seen more than 60 percent of their 5-star players drafted and more than 20 percent selected in the first-round during the same time period: Florida (72.2, 33.3 respectively) and Florida State (63.2, 21.0). And they both just hired new coaches. Right behind them, though, is Georgia (66.7 and 20.0), which signed seven 5-star players in its latest recruiting class.

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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2018 NFL Draft: Ronnie Harrison the lone Alabama player selected on day two

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One day after seeing four of its former players go in the first round, Alabama football had a subpar outing on Day 2 of the NFL Draft Friday night.

Safety Ronnie Harrison was the lone former Crimson Tide player who came off the board on Friday.

Harrison was the Tide’s leading tackler this season with 74 total stops. The Tallahassee, Fla., native also added 4.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards), 2.5 sacks (-18 yards), three interceptions and four pass breakups.

Thursday was a banner day for the Crimson Tide as defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, linebacker Rashaan Evans and wide receiver Calvin Ridley were all taken in the first round.

The four first round selections for the Crimson Tide were the most for any team in the opening round this year and equals the most for Alabama in the first round during Nick Saban’s tenure. Four Tide players were drafted in the first round of the 2011, 2012 and 2017 drafts.

Fitzpatrick was selected at No. 11 by the Miami Dolphins with Payne going to the Washington Redskins two picks later at No. 13. Evans was the No. 22 pick by the Tennessee Titans while Ridley went at No. 26 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Alabama has now had 26 players selected in the first round of the last 10 NFL Drafts. Andre Smith was selected in 2009. Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson were selected in 2010. In 2011, Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram all went in round one while Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower were taken in 2012. Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were taken in 2013 while C.J. Mosley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went in 2014. Amari Cooper was selected in 2015. Ryan Kelly was taken in 2016. Marlon Humphrey, Jonathan Allen, O.J. Howard and Reuben Foster were picked in 2017.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Alabama softball defeats Southern Miss 4-2, honors Mississippi State player

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sophomore Gabby Callaway went 3 for 3, including a 2-run home run as the University of Alabama softball team opened a four-game homestand with a 4-2 victory against Southern Miss on Wednesday night.

It was her fifth multi-hit game out of the last nine, bringing her batting average up to .355.

Senior Peyton Grantham hit a solo home run as well to open the scoring in the second inning.

Courtney Gettins threw a complete game to improve to 11-3. She allowed 2 earned runs on 8 hits, while striking out 4 and walking 2. The junior threw just 96 pitches and dropped her ERA to 2.12.

“Courtney was under 100 pitches, so it was an efficient outing,” coach Patrick Murphy said in a release. “She made the pitches when she needed to. We spread our walks and hits around; eight different people got on base. Callaway was really good at the plate today and Peyton’s home run was a big lift to opposite field on a changeup. I’m pleased with the win.”

Samantha Robles (6-13) took the loss for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles (16-30) were Alabama’s final nonconference game on the regular-season schedule.

No. 17 Alabama (27-13), which will host No. 7/10 Tennessee for a three-game series beginning Saturday, sported teal socks, ribbons and helmet stickers in honor of Mississippi State player Alex Wilcox and her battle with ovarian cancer.

“It is an unfortunate situation for the young lady and, being an Alabama native, a lot of our girls know her,” Murphy said. “Since we don’t play them this year, we felt a midweek TV game was an opportunity for us to raise awareness and show that we’re thinking about her, praying for her and are behind her 100 percent.”

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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From recruiting castoff to champion, Isaiah Buggs a key player for 2018 Crimson Tide

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — He was almost speechless, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise considering his surroundings, but Isaiah Buggs isn’t known for being quiet.

The University of Alabama junior defensive lineman was standing in front of celebrating fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the Crimson Tide had just won the national championship 26-23 in double overtime. All around him was chaos — the good kind, and there was a lot to take in.

This was why Buggs had transferred to Alabama, to experience this exact moment. He had gotten a taste of it the year before as an early enrollee, helping the Crimson Tide prepare on campus to face Clemson, only to see the Tigers pull out the win in the final second.

That’s not what caught his tongue, though. It was from having gone from being someone who wasn’t recruited out of Ruston High School in Louisiana (between Monroe and Shreveport), to two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, to this.

“What a great feeling,” he offered as the Million Dollar Marching Band played on.

That was two Mondays ago, and with last weekend’s parade the Crimson Tide have already put the 2017 season behind them. For Buggs, he’s now expected to take the next step in his football evolution, become a team leader and help Alabama overcome the loss of two key defensive linemen.

Da’Ron Payne is heading to the NFL early in hopes of being a first-round selection in the upcoming draft, while Da’Shawn Hand is at the Senior Bowl trying to show he’s worthy of being a Day 2 pick (second and third round).

Combined, they had 94 games of experience with the Crimson Tide.

“I hadn’t coached many like him,” Jeremy Pruitt said about Payne before his last game as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. It only added to the idea of how tough the players will be to replace.

Of all of Alabama’s front-seven players this past season, only Payne started all 14 games. However, Buggs was right behind him with 13. The only time he came off the bench was against Fresno State in Week 2.

That’s the kind of stability Alabama’s going to be desperately needing next season. In addition to the two linemen, the defense has to replace both interior linebackers and all six starters in the secondary, including the dime and nickel players .

A few have a head start on becoming a full-time replacement, like sophomore interior linebacker Mack Wilson after he started in Shaun Dion Hamilton’s place during the playoff. However, true freshmen are already being penciled in for the back end of the defensive line rotation, if not more.

Outside of Buggs, the only returning players in the line with experience are Raekwon Davis, Johnny Dwight, Quinnen Williams and LaBryan Ray, with Phidarian Mathis having redshirted. That’s barely two deep, and Dwight has been primarily used against the run.

With Alabama having already signed five new defensive linemen, and might add to them on National Signing Day, the position coach will have his hands full. Yet one thing that Karl Dunbar likes about Buggs is that he’s a Louisiana player with attitude, drive and some extra motivation from critical hometown fans.

Dunbar himself hails from Opelousas, La., and played collegiately at LSU, suited up for the New Orleans Saints plus coached a little at his alma mater.

He called Buggs “explosive,” but No. 49 had a different explanation last spring: “Everybody knows when Alabama gets some guys from Louisiana, they’re some dawgs. That’s how I describe all Louisiana players who come here.”

Buggs played that way to the tune of  51 tackles, including four for a loss and 1.5 sacks, and seven quarterback hurries.

Above everything else, though, he eventually exemplified the word that Saban covets the most when it comes to defensive linemen, disruptive.

Isaiah Buggs-Alabama-Alabama football-defensive line-2018-return
Isaiah Buggs at the 2018 National Championship Game. (Chris Kirschner/SEC Country)

“Works real hard,” the high-revving Davis said. “He has a great work ethic.”

“I’d say we’re both like the same,” Buggs said about their energy level.

Buggs was one of the guys swarming during the College Football Playoff, with a sack and he dropped running back D’Andre Swift for an 8-yard loss on Georgia’s first pass attempt of the second half.

It’s when the momentum began to turn because after the Bulldogs subsequently punted the Crimson Tide rallied to score their first touchdown and begin the comeback.

The defensive line was even better against Clemson, which had been widely hailed as having the best front four in college football. While Alabama’s offensive line took exception to all the praise, and played like it during the 24-6 victory in the Sugar Bowl semifinal, the Crimson Tide defense notched nine tackles for a loss, five sacks and nine passes broken up.

It began up front.

“I swear they’ve got about 25 defensive linemen,” Clemson co-defensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Every time you watch film, you see a different one.”

Actually, Alabama didn’t have the same depth up front as previous years, but it did effectively rotate the linemen to try and keep them fresh, especially as the season progressed. It along with his improvement also corresponded with Buggs have a career-high 10 tackles at Texas A&M — and yes, at times he did seemingly squash the Aggies like his last name implies.

“He’s a very instinctive player,” Nick Saban said. “He’s strong. He’s got athletic ability to finish on the quarterback.”

Consequently, he’ll be heavily counted in 2018 and hopes to cap his Crimson Tide experience by adding to his sudden ring collection. In a way, his career has sort of been that title game, as Buggs was already familiar with having been written off.

“We knew we got off to a slow start,” Buggs said. “Coming out of halftime we knew that we had to play Bama football. I’m pretty sure that everyone turned their TVs off, like ‘Man’s it’s over.”

He could only smile and laugh at that last part.

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Minkah Fitzpatrick thanks Iowa player for Tide’s playoff spot

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ATLANTA — Whether joking or serious, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick knew who he needed to thank for the Crimson Tide’s playoff spot this season.

Alabama earned the No. 4 spot over Ohio State, which won the Big Ten title but had two losses. One of the Buckeyes’ losses was a 31-point drubbing at the hands of Iowa in November.

That ultimately led the College Football Playoff committee to pick the Crimson Tide over the Buckeyes.

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy along with Fitzpatrick. The two met during their trip to Charlotte this week.

“I thanked Josey Jewell this Monday when we were in Charlotte,” Fitzpatrick said, smiling. “I just said thank you for beating up on Ohio State.”

Jewell’s response?

“He said he was just doing his job,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick spoke with a group of reporters on Wednesday at the College Football Hall of Fame. He’s a finalist for the Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) and the Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year).

Alabama will face No. 1 Clemson on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia will meet in the Rose Bowl semifinal.

Alabama and Clemson have met the last two years in the title game, with both contests being decided by fewer than 5 points.

Alabama won a 45-40 thriller to clinch the 2015 national title. Last season, Clemson defeated the Crimson Tide 35-31 on a last-second touchdown pass.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Sound Off: Who has been Alabama’s best player through first half of season?

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Over the last few weeks, three different University of Alabama players have had their names mentioned regarding the Heisman Trophy, the greatest individual honor in college football.

First it was sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year. All he’s been doing is guiding the league’s best offense, and had his first turnover of the season last week.

Then the hype seemed to switch to junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is so versatile that one simply can’t call him a cornerback, safety, nickel (star) or dime (money) player in Nick Saban’s system. Or a pass rusher. He plays all of them, plus special teams.

“Minkah is a really good player,” junior defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne said. “It would be a nice thing to see.”

With his 125 rushing yards on nine attempts against Arkansas, Damien Harris notched his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, prompting Calvin Ridley to suggest the running back should be considered for the award as well.

So who’s been Alabama’s best player so far this season?

Christopher Walsh and Marq Burnett debate the issue in this week’s Sound Off, presented by Zaxby’s. They give some surprising answers and discuss a whole lot more as Alabama prepares for its annual rivalry game with Tennessee, known as the Third Saturday in October.

The great debate: Alabama’s MVP through first half of season

Here are some timestamps to guide you:

  • Marq and Christopher first give some final thoughts about last week’s win against Arkansas, and offer differ different viewpoints on who had the best game for the Crimson Tide. Marq begins with his choice on the offensive side, a player who is making the most of his opportunities (:30). Christopher looks to the defensive side and two players he thought stood out (1:30).
  • Who’s your MVP of this team so far? “That’s really tough,” Marq says before eventually naming a player who no one thought would be considered before the start of the season (2:20). Christopher’s choice is also a little bit of a surprise, but for a different reason (3:40). They also touch upon how there’s really a number of possibilities for consideration, and how their answers could continue to change as the season progresses (5:00).
  • Marq offers something that he’s seeing with the offense that shows Hurts is continuing to develop as a passer (5:30), while Christopher (6:00) talks about the only statistic that really matters to him.
  • Are the young wide receivers as good as we think they are (6:30)? Marq give some thoughts about freshmen Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith, and Christopher pulls out his crystal ball and predicts which one of them might be close to having a big game (7:45).
  • Can Tennessee give Alabama a game (8:15)? Marq and Christopher preview the 100th edition of the Third Saturday of October.
  • Marq and Christopher wrap things up by discussing which opponent is Alabama’s biggest rival (9:50). Is it Tennessee, Auburn or LSU? They comment on why you could ask three different Crimson Tide fans and get three different answers.

Check back to SEC Country all season for everything you need to know about Alabama football.

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton named SEC Defensive Player of the Week

Shaun Dion Hamilton-Alabama football-Crimson Tide football

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —University of Alabama senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton’s comeback game got a little sweeter on Tuesday morning when he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

In his first game since suffering a torn ACL in the 2016 SEC Championship Game against Florida, he led the Crimson Tide with eight tackles, including a career-high 3.5 for a loss and a sack.

Alabama limited No. 3 Florida State to just 40 rushing yards and 250 total yards during the 24-7 victory.

He was also the only starting linebacker to escape a significant injury during the game. Alabama had to use numerous players in trying to replace outside linebackers Christian Miller (biceps) and Anfernee Jennings (ankle), along with interior linebacker Rashaan Evens (groin).

Miller and Terrell Lewis (elbow) were lost for the season, while Jennings and Evans are expected to be out a couple of weeks.

“Next guy’s up,” Hamilton said. “All the guys who get recruited here are top guys, so it’s time for them to grow up.”

Among those who could get significantly more playing time include interior linebackers Keith Holcombe, Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses. Former walk-on Jamie Mosley led the outside linebackers through drills Monday.

“We have a lot of good young guys and I already told them that if y’all need anything from me I am willing to help and watch extra film with them or whatever,” Hamilton said. “I know me and all the other coaches and some of the leaders are going to do what we need to do to get those guys ready.”

It’s the first time Hamilton’s won the weekly SEC honor. Although running Damien Harris led the team in rushing, scored a touchdown and blocked a punt, the special-teams award went to South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel. He returned the opening kick 97 yards for a touchdown and caught two touchdown passes to led the 35-28 victory over North Carolina State.

 

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country